The theme of death is among the most popular topics in modern culture, and it resonates with many people. The fear of dying is sitting deeply in the minds of individuals in western civilizations, but there are substantial cross-cultural differences that can be found in the way people from different parts of the world think and feel about death. The process of urbanization changed the structure of society, leading to the creation of a new way individuals perceive themselves and the world around, which shaped the views on life and death.
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The fact that people’s attitude towards dying varies among cultures and religions shows that it is not universal, and might depend on the way civilizations emerged and evolved. Don Saunders points out in his paper, that the way modern western culture perceives death is determent by the religious and cultural change that occurred in the Mediterranean between 2000 and 1000 BCE (50).
This change was linked with the process of rapid urbanization that took place at the region at the same time, leading to the division of labor and, consequently, the creation of social casts and classes. These processes created the environment for the emergence and rise of self-consciousness and a sense of separation of individuals from each other and the world. The author emphasizes that this sense of individual identity did not exist in a hunter-gatherer society, in which humans and nature were perceived as a whole (Saunders 51). In the following centuries, self-consciousness was further facilitated by the development of structured written languages that allowed to visualize thoughts and abstract ideas at a much higher level of accuracy and detail than oral traditions.
The article contributes to the understanding of the way people perceive life and death by investigating the origins of modern cultures. Taking into account the evolution of the attitude towards the matter in different societies, one might develop a personal vision of the subject with more awareness. It is especially important due to the fact the question of life and death is personally relevant for all individuals, determining to a great extent how people live.
Another important contribution of the article is that it discusses how people have come to be afraid of death. As the paper suggests, the fear of dying is a cultural construct (Saunders 51). It means that this fear is not a product of the self-preservation instinct, and it is not purely biological and, thus, should not be looked at as an essential part of human nature. It allows a possibility for an alternative for a pessimistic view on aging and death that is dominant in modern society.
Perhaps, a more positive attitude towards the subject of death can be developed, which will help many people be less vulnerable to depression and anxiety and acquire stronger motivation to live a meaningful life.
Developing a theory that helps better understand the evolution of human culture and the attitude towards life and death. Saunders argues that urbanization led to the emergence of consciousness of individual identity and determined the further course of human society. The author supports the theory with historical evidence and provides multiple examples to illustrate his point of view. The article contributes to the discussion about the perception of life and death by showing how these concepts vary in different parts of the globe and how they evolved historically. Reading this paper might help better understand the subject and develop a personal attitude towards it.
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Saunders, Don. Life After Death. University of South Florida, 2019.